Superfan? TV show narrator? Thinking of a few jobs for the charismatic Les Miles until a new coaching job arrives
For the past few years, I've had a Les Miles problem. You see, I was raised as—yes, these exist—a Tulane fan, and back in prehistoric times, Tulane had a somewhat legitimate rivalry with LSU. No matter that the Green Wave bolted from the SEC in 1966, a full seven years before a Niesen went to Tulane; my family hates LSU to the extent that my brother offers a vulgar reinterpretation of the lyrics to "Calling Baton Rouge" when singing along at Pat O'Brien's piano bar.
As I ventured into the world of football, though, I began to realize Miles is a sportswriter's dream. He's entertaining, both in games and off the field. His players love him. He's irreverent. He's approachable. So on Sunday when I saw the news of his firing, my first thought was that finally I can espouse the virtues of Les without my family threatening to disown me.
As LSU begins its coaching search in earnest this fall, it'll look for a coach that can take a team that's put out 32 NFL draft picks (including four Pro Bowlers) in the past five years back to the top of college football. And that's great. I wish the Tigers the best. But really, I'm about 100 times more interested in where Miles goes next than I am in LSU's hire. With that in mind, I've come up with a few less conventional ideas for the Hat, should he need some inspiration in these trying times.
1. Nebraska superfan: Miles's son Ben is a fullback who's committed to play for the Huskers in 2017. Perhaps after so many years in the Louisiana humidity, the family might want to head north next fall to get a taste of that crisp Midwestern air, and Les could be a mainstay at Memorial Stadium on Saturdays. So, Nebraska: Give him a box, or maybe a section of his own. Sell the naming rights, for that matter. FOX and ESPN can set up a special Les cam, to which they can cut during games. Hell, they could even forego a sideline reporter and just get Miles's takes; think how much cash that would save them after they forked over $2.64 billion in the Big Ten's latest TV deal. We could even take this one step further: Why wouldn't the Omaha World-Herald just hire Miles as a college football columnist? We could read his dispatches on Sundays; I can't even imagine what kind of web traffic they'd do. Call the Pulitzer committee. (Plus, he can hone his skills this fall cheering his older son, Manny, a walk-on quarterback at North Carolina; maybe he can even audit a few classes at UNC's highly rated journalism school.)
2. Scout Ponder handler: One of my favorite Instagram tributes to Miles came from ESPN's Samantha Ponder, who posted a photo of the coach with her daughter, Scout, last season. I know it might be easy to simply cheer for Miles to take a traditional television analyst job—I get it, he'd be great—but I'll do you one better. In a post on Scout's personal Instagram, Ponder refers to Miles as her daughter's best friend forever; why not have ESPN hire Miles to appear on air with Scout every Saturday? Les Miles and the world's cutest toddler on television at football's biggest games—who wouldn't watch?
3. Haberdasher: It may be a bit obvious, but it's too phenomenal a word to not include on this list.
4. Auburn head coach: On Dan Patrick's radio show Monday morning, Miles copped to the fact that he'll be pretty lost without coaching; apparently he has no hobbies whatsoever, not golf, not tennis, not hunting, and he's bad at cards. So if he's truly uninterested in thinking outside the box, I'll suggest he start sending some whispers of availability toward Auburn. Gus Malzahn has been on the hot seat all season, and you'd have to think the other SEC West Tigers would be plenty happy to offer Miles a shot. Yes, the win over LSU Saturday snapped Auburn's seven-game home losing streak to Power Five teams, but if SEC play keeps going the way it has so far this season, Malzahn still may not be long for his job. Miles is an ace recruiter, especially in the south, and wouldn't it be a fun twist of fate if the team whose victory secured Miles's ouster in Baton Rouge managed to grab him?
5. Jim Harbaugh sidekick: There's long been speculation that Miles has kept one eye on the Michigan job; he played for the Wolverines from 1974–75, was a GA in Ann Arbor from 1980-81 and then served as their offensive line coach from 1987–94. Obviously, the program is in expert hands under Harbaugh, one of the smartest coaches in the game, but think what a complement Miles would be to that brand of intensity. Over the years, Harbaugh has been known as one of the most demanding coaches in the game, wearing his players out over time. Miles, then, could be the good cop to his bad, an enhancement to Harbaugh's job security rather than a threat. Associate head coach in charge of levity has a nice ring to it. Plus, who needs satellite camps when you've got Miles on the recruiting trail?
6. Nature documentary narrator: Come on. Think about it. Miles's narration of the time he fell while running out of the tunnel in Tuscaloosa in 2011 was the stuff of an epic poem. ("…the field was strong with excess band members and people with flags and maybe even an occasional mascot or two. And as I made my way through what appeared, again, to be a minefield of people, from the side unbeknownst to me, there was a contact between one of our players and a cheerleader—male, I might add.") Imagine a version of that prose lent to film of bald eagles migrating or dolphins jumping.
You can do anything you set your mind to, Les. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.